This remote and challenging ride features towering trees, historic hiking huts and rare native birdlife within the North Island’s ancient Whirinaki Forest.
Whirinaki Forest in Rotorua is one of the great podocarp forests of the world, with impressive stands of native trees including rimu, tōtara, and kahikatea – the tallest of New Zealand’s giants. As recently as the 1980s the forest in this area was still being felled for timber, but – as a result of one of the country’s most significant conservation battles – this precious remnant was saved from the loggers’ saws.
Now protected as the Whirinaki Forest/Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park, the forest is now the realm of the birds, and visited by hikers, hunters and mountain bikers who penetrate this remote wilderness via a network of trails. Passing through the heart of the park, the 35 km Moerangi Mountain Biking Trail follows old hiking routes for much of the way, as well as newer sections built especially for mountain bikers.
A remote and rugged ride, the Moerangi Mountain Biking Trail offers deep immersion into a landscape of amazing forest, rivers and ridges. There mightn’t be any jumps, berms and table-tops, but Mother Nature has created a series of varied, natural obstacles and hazards such as fallen trees, slips and steep drop-offs that will keep riders on their toes.
Along the way are three historic huts including the nine-bed Moerangi Hut, located around the halfway mark. It’s a great option for bikers wishing to turn their ride into an overnight adventure, a reward of which is the chance to hear the North Island brown kiwi calling out after dusk. During the day, other fascinating birds may be seen or heard, such as the yellow-crowned kākāriki, kākā, whio (blue duck) and kārearea (New Zealand falcon).
The trail is best started from the Okahu Road end – approximately 100km southeast of Rotorua – so that most of the undulating terrain is tackled first. It also means the ride finishes with the long, thrilling descent from Moerangi Saddle (955m), following a ridgeline down to the Whirinaki River.
The trail ends are 37km apart by road. Transport to and from the trail and secure car parking can be organised through Whirinaki Forest Holidays, and Tread Routes who, along with Mountain Bike Rotorua, offer guided tours.